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Firepower

**
1979

‘…Firepower is notable only as a repository of disinterested performances and seemingly improvised quirks…’

Producer Lew Grade certainly had an eye for a bad movie; ponying up for The Cassandra Crossing, Saturn 3 and Raise the Titanic indicates a complete lack of discernment, and presumably that’s what led him to the door of director Michael Winner. Even Winner’s successes, notably Death Wish, are in dubious taste, but his worst efforts have to be seen to be believed, and Firepower is pretty bad even for him.

Originally developed as a potential Dirty Harry movie, Firepower is a shambolic violent caper movie set in a drab-looking Caribbean. James Coburn plays Jerry Fanon, a gun-for-hire who agrees to locate and secure reclusive businessman Carl Stegner, teaming up with Adela Tasca (Sophia Loren) who wants revenge on the billionaire for personal reasons. With the film-makers’ imaginations seemingly taken up by thinking of strange character names like Manley Reckford, securing rando appearances by the likes of Jake LaMotta and OJ Simpson, blowing up buildings or demolishing them with bulldozers, support Eli Wallach and Vincent Gardenia have little chance to shine.

The final action scenes have a couple of great shots to recommend them, but most of Firepower is notable only as a repository of disinterested performances and seemingly improvised quirks; Loren’s ability to make scrambled egg sandwiches is her most interesting trait, while Coburn unwisely plays two characters in the same scene without any special effects.Winner’s inability to frame Coburn and his double convincingly reduces this moment into a Godardian mush of incoherence.

There’s a lot going on in Firepower, but most of it is just strange; a brief glimpse of Victor Mature with bright green hair tops things off with just the right bizarre note in time for the closing credits. And any film which has a specific credit for saxophone solos deserves a mention in dispatches;  slathered over the locations like a cheap balm, these moments of musical noodling turn the stomach and yet tickle the mind with their awfulness, much like Winner himself.

 

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  1. At one point this was pretty hard to find – for obvious reasons as I soon found out – and I was so disappointed when I did manage to track it down. Coburn is no Charles Bronson who was once attached so I understand but took the huff because Sir Lew Grade insisted Sophia Loren was a bigger box office star than Jill Ireland. Grade deserves his own special place in box office hell. Lots of bang for your buck but not much else.

    • Charlie dodged a bullet! Even with my irony hat on, this really sucks. Do remember it on vhs in one of these fibreglass cases, and even on ITV at some point. Lee Grade had a reverse Midas touch, quite a talent for disaster!

    • Is the correct answer. What I choose to watch in my own time is often rather wide of the mark…

  2. Just written a post in Sophia Loren too… How crazy is that? And her greatest hour The Cassandra Crossing does get a mention… But this I gotta see and if you are having a James Colburn season recommend Golden girl.. which has nothing to do with Betty White…

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